2017 VW Golf Alltrack Long-Term Update: Wagon love
There is an unwritten rule that automotive journalists must love wagons. Perhaps greater vehicular exposure has enlightened us to the virtues of a long roofline. Or maybe our skeptical nature breeds a preference for undervalued vehicle segments. For whatever reason, car reviewers like me have an innate love for wagons like Kelley Blue Book’s long-term 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.
Not only is our VW Alltrack a wagon, and a sassy red wagon at that, it’s also something of an off-roader. Triple score! Sporting all-wheel drive and a slightly elevated ride height this is a Volkswagen Golf for those with active lifestyles. I’m no kayaking club-goer but between fathering an 18-month old daughter and managing an endless barrage of video shoots my lifestyle is vaguely akin to “active”. Here then are a few random Alltrack observations made while enjoying said lifestyle.
Jeepers, our V-Dub wagon drives great. On a recent video-centric trek from LA to Las Vegas the KBB Alltrack cruised effortlessly across vast expanses of wasteland, delivering its occupants to Sin City with only minimal wear and tear. Credit for that low-impact drive goes, in part, to a highly-adjustable center arm rest that facilitated an ideal driving position as well as supportive yet comfortable seats. Our SE trim’s partial power front seats do require modest physical exertion to slide fore and aft but hey, we could all use more exercise.
Long-distance journeys like our Vegas run heighten the importance of in-car entertainment. Bluetooth streaming works just fine in our long-term Alltrack but to use the infotainment system’s Apple CarPlay functionality an iPhone must be hardwired via USB. Annoyingly the USB input, located in a small storage nook at the base of the dash, is virtually inaccessible with the gear shift in park. Designate a cable to stay in the car or simply shift into drive before plugging in and the issue is moot. But, like a bur in your sock, minor annoyances tend to grate the most over time.
Of course a key part of any wagon’s appeal is how it blends SUV-like cargo space with sedan-like ride and handling. True enough we successfully crammed four dudes and a ton of video gear into our Golf Alltrack during our Vegas trek while still enjoying the handling dynamism afforded by a low center of gravity. For those who still care about driving fun, wagons like the Alltrack make pragmatism palatable. With luck, in the coming months we’ll expand on that fun by more fully exploiting our car’s all-wheel drive system.
Wagon or SUV?
Add it up and I really ought to prefer the Alltrack wagon to a comparable sedan. In fact, I do. But modern car shoppers don’t necessarily cross-shop sedans with wagons. The Volkswagen Alltrack’s true competitors are the latest breed of compact SUVs. For our long-term VW’s $32,195 asking price you could instead buy a very well equipped all-wheel drive 2017 Honda CR-V that, while only 1 inch longer, provides 30-percent greater cargo volume, nearly 5 inches more rear-seat legroom, and notably better combined fuel economy (29 MPG vs the Alltrack’s 25 MPG). The CR-V’s taller stance also makes it easier to climb aboard, strap my daughter into her car seat, or spot highway patrol cars from a distance.
I like wagons. I swear I do. Especially our long-term Golf Alltrack. It looks great, is a joy to sit in and drive, and offers lots of cargo space…for a car. But, as of late, the car-buying public has demonstrated a growing preference for compact SUVs and a waning passion for vehicle handling and steering feel. My inner elitist is tempted to dismiss the wagon’s marginalized status as an expression of ignorance but I can’t shake the notion that, though under-informed, the SUV-loving masses might be on to something.
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